No, Really

Sunday, February 21, 2010 - 4:04 PM

Barim had done a fair number of things in his greasy, turbulent life that he regretted. The money was usually the reason, and he was the sort of man who had very expensive habits, so he just kept doing things he didn't want to think about. After a while, it became a kind of repugnant ritual.

Sitting in the dismal environs of Cove, he was twice as uncomfortable as normal. Cove was not a place for the weak; there were always shadows watching and waiting behind the decrepit wood and stone corners of Cove's muddy streets. Barim was not a man to be trifled with, certainly; he started as a paid murderer and later dabbled in sorcery. But desperation can drive someone to do foolish things, and Barim often reminded himself that more people are killed by fools than any other type of person. Caution was his watchword.

However, he was especially nervous at the moment because of the work he was waiting to be paid for. It seemed simple enough, if extremely unpleasant, and he was promised ample payment for it. You have a friend who is a sorcery master, they'd told him. Have the sorceror open you a doorway to the place called Ni'rhus, and there will be someone waiting for you. Use your contacts and skills to take this person into the Sanctum of Voloth Pridefallen, and leave him there. Afterwards, send your men out to start rumors that a Lady Angharad had gone to Hell on a quest.

He knew the Sanctum from his studies on sorcery, so he assumed that this person would be someone very unpopular. The place was crawling with devils. His heart was cold about leaving anyone at the Shrine, but money was money and his stores of kehtallah were running low.
But he got a brief look at the bound and unconscious man, and recognized the noble features immediately. Worse, when he finally got back again, he found out his sorceror friend had vanished without a trace.

They are not paying me enough for this, he thought. If anyone finds out what I did, nothing will save me. And I think someone does know.

His contact sat down. The man was thin and indifferent, with an exceptionally pointed nose that comprised his one and only distinguishing characteristic. “Work is finished?”

“Yes,” said Barim quietly. “Just as you asked.” He narrowed his eyes at the man. “I hope you know how important it is to keep my work a secret.”

“Yes,” said the man without inflection. “We are very much aware.”

Barim felt the fight before it happened. As in so many times before, his blades were out before he consciously understood he was being attacked, and two of his attackers were down. One gasped out life through his ripped throat, the other was dead instantly by a precise blow through the heart. But there were others, pressing too hard for him to try a spell. Quickly, he dodged and spun to gain ground and escape, wounding two more badly but he was astonished at how good they were.

These are far better than veteran soldiers or second-rank assassins, he thought in shock. This must be an expensive ambush.

Even so, he killed another of them with a whistling cut to the inner thigh and a follow-up that split the man's temple. But then a spike of agony drove itself into the back of his head, and he fell, dazed. He struggled to get up again, but then hands were on him, binding and twisting. There were several more blows, and then a voice said, “No, I need him awake.”

Abruptly, he found himself looking at the ice-water gray eyes of a woman with tidy features and a wicked scar running up her neck over her jawline. He had a brief impression of short, glossy black hair and the start of memory that said he'd seen her somewhere before, somewhere important.

“So precious,” said the woman. “We need you some more, Barim, we need you. But not with what you know.”

Something happened to Barim's mind. It folded in on itself, smoldered in spots and quickly grew black like a piece of paper in a fire. When he woke again, he was in a silk and velvet bed at the Chained Nymph inn, and he only remembered a very successful night of gambling and drinking. With all his newfound money, there was no need for a job, which was good because he'd been looking for one for far too long

Sitting up and stretching, it suddenly occurred to him that he'd never been to the great city of Yhelm. He quickly decided to pay it a call after another day in the pleasure city of Arn. Some part of him had this nagging sensation that he'd forgotten something important, but he dismissed it as a result of getting too drunk the night before.


At February 22, 2010 6:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice! Love the burning paper analogy.


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